Is it time yet? Can we start talking about the book? I doubt I'll get very deep, as that's not how I felt about the book. I felt the book was a kind of surface, somehow, ranging horizontally across space rather than vertically through levels of consciousness. I read the thing in three days. One night it kept me up till 4 in the morning. Long time since a book's done that, but I don't read a lot of whodunits or thrillers. Maybe they all do it.
I really liked the almost freakishly calm style of describing creepy events, and I appreciated the plain cleanliness of that style. This was a book all about character and story -- no fancy stuff, as Frank would say. I thought it was cool how the three storylines ever so gradually approached each other, and I thought even more of Chaon when I read later in an interview that at first he had no idea how the stories were connected, that they began as images, and he just followed them all, trusting that his subconscious would do the work, until he figured it all out toward the end of the writing (and as his wife was dying).
Miles was the most attractive to me in his self-conscious but helpless obsession, and Hayden was all the more vivid for appearing off-page (or apparently so) for so long. And I sympathized with Lucy in her better-than-it-was-but-wtf attitude. Looked forward to her sections, and my favorite part of the book was her feeling her way through Africa. I didn't care for Ryan for some reason. He was too weak for me -- weak in an annoying way, as opposed to Miles' endearing weakness.
That said -- and I'm quoting now from someone's comments on a workshop story of mine -- I'm not sure what it all added up to. What was my "takeaway," what did it reveal about human nature? Nothing I hadn't already thought about. What surprised me? Not a lot. I must have picked up the exact right clues along the way, and I'm usually not that good at solving mysteries. What did it teach me about writing? It reinforced "trust the reader" by being so spare but so precise in detail. And it demonstrated that atmosphere and background really do color a book -- his descriptions of landscapes (especially Nebraska), I thought, were effective and truly enhanced whatever mood was on offer at the time. But the book hasn't stayed with me that much. I haven't found myself re-caught in its language or visuals, as happens with a lot of other books. And here's my test: If someone asked whether I'd recommend it, I see myself shrugging...